Heritage Farm: Beyond the Ingate with Amira Kettaneh & Dylan Bazaar
Updated: Jan 10, 2022
In this behind-the-scenes series from Heritage Farm, we’re introducing you to the program’s horses and riders in a whole new way. Get to know our group beyond what you’ve seen ringside, accolades and all:
Amira Kettaneh and Gossip SA. Photo by SportFot
Hometown: Hollis, NH
Horses: Gossip SA, Campino TH, Nashville Hero
2021 Highlights: Advanced to the second round of the ASPCA Maclay National Championship; fourth overall, North American Pre Junior Championship at NAYC; top 10, WEF Equitation Championship; committed to the University of South Carolina NCEA Hunt Seat team
Amira Kettaneh's connection to Heritage originated with her mother. Leigh Kettaneh, who runs her own Fox Creek Farm out of Hollis, NJ, grew up riding with longtime Heritage Farm trainer Patricia Griffith, and at the 2017 USEF Pony Finals, she approached Griffith to see if her daughter could work with the Heritage Farm team.
In the more-than five years since, Amira, 16, has made quite the commitment to Heritage. She and her mother drive her horses from their home base more than four hours for lessons at Heritage and meet up with the operation at horse shows across the country.
"When we are between shows, we'll ship in for the day to lesson as often as we can," Amira said. "If shows are closer together, we don’t get there very often, and we'll just meet at shows. In Florida, it's easier. We live four hours away in New Hampshire, but while we are in Wellington, we'll go over and lesson twice a week." Amira has stamped herself as a rider to watch with two years remaining in her junior career. At the 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship, she and her own Gossip SA advanced to the second round, and the pair finished ninth in the WEF Equitation Championship. With her jumper Campino TH, she finished fourth individually in the Pre Junior Championship at NAYC, and this winter in Wellington, she steps up to the high junior jumper division with both "Tino" and another mount, Nashville Hero. "The whole team aspect of Heritage—there's not just one trainer, and they work together really well. It makes it really nice," Amira said. "They're also very organized. I never have to worry when I'm at the ring." Collegiate riding was not originally on Amira's radar, but NCEA coaches certainly noticed her, and in January she committed to the University of South Carolina's recruiting class of 2023. She credits her extensive resources at Heritage for helping to educate her about the process. "I didn’t know much about college riding, but I got to know other girls that at Heritage that rode on college teams, and they really enjoyed it," Amira said. "It was really helpful to have all those people around me, to tell me the pros and cons about it. I'll most likely major in bio-engineering of some sort, with a double-major in business." In the meantime, she's eager to achieve new goals, while also growing her horsemanship skills, as she continues managing her horses at home. "I've had to learn how to prepare own horses, since they are not stabled with Heritage. They've showed me and taught me how they should feel when they're show-ready, and how much I need to do," Amira explained. "They're very good about teaching you timing, pace and track. It's nice to have my mom, too, to have two sets of eyes."
Hometown: Katonah, NY
Horses: Nashville, Dario
2021 Highlights: 5th, USEF Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under National Championship - East Coast; made first ASPCA Maclay National Championship and USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final appearances
Dylan Bazaar will travel to Wellington, FL this winter to compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival for the very first time. Bazaar, 15, has spent the past six years riding with Heritage, but while much of the barn traveled south for the winter season, Bazaar committed to the northeast circuit and Heritage's "Winter Warrior" program in Katonah.
"I love staying home in the winter. I've been doing this ever since I started riding," Bazaar said. "Going to all the local horse shows around us, the people start to feel like a family. While I've been to WEF before, this [year] will be my first time participating and juggling the back-and-forth with school."
While she may not have gotten the exposure of some of her peers, Bazaar's hard work at home paid off in spades: She qualified for both the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final and the ASPCA Maclay National Championship by way of the Region 2 finals at Old Salem Farm.
"I remember walking to the ring at Harrisburg [for the first time] and being like, ‘Whoa!’" Bazaar exclaimed. "To have all the top riders right there at the ring, it was definitely a 'wow' experience, but standing at ingate, Andre told me, 'You've got this.' Those three words mean so much."
Bazaar did it all with her versatile and reliable mount, Nashville, who also made the qualifying lists for the junior hunters at all the indoor championships, earning ribbons wherever he passed through the ingate. At the USEF Junior Hunter National Championships — East, Bazaar and the bay finished fifth overall in the Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under division.
"He's my heart horse," Bazaar said. "We bought him when he was just turning six and had just [been imported]. He took me through my first indoor season and is just the second horse [I've owned]." This year, Bazaar added the experienced Dario to her string as she puts a greater focus on the equitation ring. Among her goals are to qualify for her first USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals — East. Nashville, meanwhile, will focus on continuing his prowess in the junior hunters as well as contesting some USHJA International Hunter Derby classes. "I came to Heritage at 10 years old not even knowing how to count strides," Bazaar recalled. "I look back at every year, and I look back at the fall season, and I remember every little thing. Focusing on equitation, at Heritage, [there is a focus on] every detail. My equitation has changed, my mentality and how I use my brain has changed, and Heritage has helped me with all of that."